Top Japanese pair Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi are in the final of the Malaysian Open after defeating compatriots Reika Kakiiwa-Miyuki Maeda in the semis at Putra Stadium on Saturday. - AZHAR ARIF/ The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: Top Japanese women’s pair Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi have a poor record against opponents from China.
They are also one of the few top pairs in the world who have yet to bag a Super Series title.
The pair, who reached a career high No. 2 in the world last year before slipping down to fourth, however believe that has kept them hungry and motivated at the highest level.
And Matsutomo-Takahashi have certainly shown that in the Maybank Malaysian Open here.
On Friday, they scored a rare win over Olympic champions Tian Qing-Zhao Yunlei of China in the quarter-finals.
Then on Saturday, they outlasted compatriots Reika Kakiiwa-Miyuki Maeda in 86 minutes to reach the Malaysian Open final for the second straight year.
“We’re obviously very tired ... but we just keep pushing ourselves to do better,” said Matsutomo.
“We’ve played them (Kakiiwa-Maeda) a few times and it has always been close. I believe that the long rallies from the first game eventually wore them down.”
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Takahashi pointed out that the desire to beat the top Chinese pairs has been the driving force for them to stay at the top level.
“It can be quite frustrating losing to the Chinese pairs all the time. I believe that getting a win over them occasionally is good for our confidence,” said Takahashi.
“I feel that every time we play against a Chinese pair, we’re getting closer.
“Now our goal is to improve our game and to continuously get a win over them ... whoever it is that we face.
“It’ll also be great if we can secure our first Super Series title. We’re definitely going to fight for it in the final.”
It won’t be easy though as they will have to overcome the most in-form pair in the world right now – China’s Bao Yixin-Tang Jinhua.
The world No. 11 who have won six titles on the trot since pairing up last October, were just too powerful for second seeds Christinna Pedersen-Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark, winning 21-13, 21-11 in the other semi-final.
The women’s singles final will be an all-China affair with top seed Li Xuerui facing second seed Wang Shixian.
Xuerui and Shixian were way too strong for team-mate Yao Xue and South Korea’s Bae Yeon-ju respectively.